Today I have something different for you again. This is contemporary with an existential kind of feel to it. Go on, let’s just try everything we can right? OK, here we go.
The Room by Jonas Karlsson
Funny, clever, surreal, and thought-provoking, this Kafka-esque masterpiece introduces the unforgettable Bjorn, an exceptionally meticulous office worker striving to live life on his own terms.
Bjorn is a compulsive, exacting bureaucrat who discovers a secret room at the government office where he works–a secret room that no one else in his office will acknowledge. When Bjorn is in his room, what his coworkers see is him standing by the wall and staring off into space looking dazed, relaxed, and decidedly creepy. Bjorn’s bizarre behavior eventually leads his coworkers to try to have him fired, but Bjorn will turn the tables on them with help from his secret room. Author Jonas Karlsson doesn’t leave a word out of place in this brilliant, bizarre, delightful take on how far we will go–in a world ruled by conformity–to live an individual and examined life.
I was originally drawn to this book after reading a review on Marina’s blog, Finding Time to Write. I thought it sounded interesting and I put it on my very long to-be-read list, which is just a long list of books I want to read but will probably not get around to because it is that long, list – on Goodreads. Anyway, I was in Waterstones, a UK-based bookshop, with a friend when I spotted the hardback version of this book and I had no qualms about picking it up and buying it.
It didn’t take me long to read because it’s not a long novel at only 167 pages. I absolutely adored the cover. Mine is crisply white, but I didn’t put that cover up because of the white background on the blog. It’s simple and clean. I was hooked before I’d even read a word.
The novel itself is told in first person narrative from Bjorn’s point of view just as he is moved from one job to another at the Authority. A government office where he does boring mundane tasks. The observations of his fellow co-workers are amusing as it gives you a real insight into Bjorn who is a loner. A perfectionist. A little OCD. He also sees himself as being made for better things. He has a belief in himself that is not yet realised. And he believes others should be able to see it in him and it frustrates him that they don’t. It is then that he finds this room in the corridor on the way to the toilets. While he’s in there he doesn’t feel stressed about the office life or politics and starts to make regular visits. Only the rest of the office staff don’t see the room and only see Bjorn stood in the corridor completely still and staring off into space. They try to get him fired.
It’s a wonderful book. Especially if you’ve ever worked in an office because you will recognise the way things work or the odd person in there or even if you haven’t, it will amuse you to see it at work. The writing is wonderful and it’s a translated book so credit has to go to Neil Smith for such great work on the translation because it is such a clean read. To see what happens when the office staff turn on Bjorn and his room and to find out how he reacts, I’d recommend reading this little book. It’s unique and definitely worth a night of your time.